State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands

Publication Year



Current standard narratives of Ottoman, Balkan, and Middle East history overemphasize the role of nationalism in the transformation of the region. Challenging these accounts, this book argues that religious affiliation was in fact the most influential shaper of communal identity in the Ottoman era, that religion molded the relationship between state and society, and that it continues to do so today in lands once occupied by the Ottomans. The book examines the major transformations of the past 250 years to illustrate this argument, traversing the nineteenth century, the early decades of post-Ottoman independence, and the recent past. In this way, the book affords unusual insights not only into the historical patterns of political development but also into the forces shaping contemporary crises, from the dissolution of Yugoslavia to the rise of political Islam.


  • Challenges the basic national assumptions still framing history of the Ottoman empire and post-Ottoman countries
  • Unprecedented combination of geographic (Balkans, Turkey, Middle East) and temporal ranges (eighteenth century to present)
  • Follows historical developments to understand how current conditions were reached

Table of Contents

1. State, faith, nation, and the Ottoman Empire
2. The pre-modern Islamic state and military modernization
3. The breaking of the pre-modern Islamic state
4. The reconstructed Muslim state
5. End of empire
6. The post-Ottoman Balkans
7. Post-Ottoman Turkey
8. The post-Ottoman Arab lands
9. The contemporary Balkans
10. Contemporary Turkey
11. Contemporary Arab countries
Conclusion. State, faith, and nation.

Reviews and Endorsements

"A readable accounting of the transformations taking place over the last 250 years in the Balkans and the Middle East. Anscombe's book offers an unusual synthesis of scholarship covering regions rarely considered together. His reinterpretation of the rise of modernity after the fall of the Ottoman Empire argues that religious affiliation was the primary historical force behind these developments. His attempt to account from the traumatic relationship religious people had with the modern state uniquely ties events such as the collapse of Yugoslavia to the rise of political Islam. Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."
I. Blumi, Choice

"… offers valuable insights into a complicated transitional period in modern history."
Slavic Review

"… witty and provocative. Anscombe has digested several bodies of historiography and introduces some new insights from research in British and Ottoman archives. Many of us preach about bridging historiographies and moving beyond established nation-centric narratives. Anscombe accomplishes this masterfully."
Hasan Kayali, University of California, San Diego

"A pleasure to read … I cannot, within the limits of a brief book review, do full justice to such a book covering almost a dozen countries over a period of two centuries. Anscombe's book is a tour de force with a wealth of minute details ranging from the reasons for local disturbances in Sarajevo to the legal system of Kuwait, all woven together within a grand narrative of Ottoman and post-Ottoman order and disorder. It might be labeled a bold revisionist historiography of the Ottoman Empire and its aftermath. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in a remarkably different interpretation of politics and society in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Balkans and the Middle East."
Şener Aktürk, New Perspectives on Turkey

Cambridge University Press
New York
Cloth: 9781107042162; paper: 9781107615236